You know things are bad when teenagers crowd around to watch the news.
By now, the inside of my lips are raw and sore from my nervous chewing, Rin’s nails merely stubs.
Leo’s knee jumps up and down, our hands still interlinked as our whole year crowds around the two TV’s in the Snug. Every year in the school will be doing the same in each of their Snug’s.
I can only imagine what state the youngest years are in.
No one is really watching the weather forecast, who cares if it may snow? Our little secret world is about to be shattered and spread around the whole country.
I put my hand on Leo’s knee, trying to still the nervous energy. It doesn’t help he’s just taken his vitamin.
He sighs heavily and puts obvious effort into keeping his leg still.
“My parents don’t know.” He breathes conspiratorially.
I lean closer to him, sure I heard him wrong. He said he’d been controlling people’s bodies since he was born, how could they not know?
“My parents don’t know about my Quirk. They think I got in here because of my dad’s promotion.”
I blink back at him.
“I don’t- How don’t they know?”
“I was brought up with a nanny, she knows, but then she’s more of a mum than my real mother ever was. I used to make her play patty cake while she was sleeping. I don’t remember her ever not knowing. But…” He trails off, eyes casting nervous glances at the screen.
After this report, they’d know.
They’d know what St. Bart’s housed, exactly what kind of gifts you needed to get in here.
Including “gifts” like mine.
“Maybe they won’t watch the news.”
“My dad’s a stock broker, he watches the news every night to see if there’s anything affecting the stocks worth. Plus have you seen the coverage of this thing? It’s been on the newspapers, highlighted in TV mags… unless you live in a cane, everyone is tuning into watch this thing. They’ve even cancelled EastEnders tonight so they can broadcast this. The coverage of this thing has been so major, it’s made the news as a whole other item.”
My teeth sink into my lip again, making my eyes water.
“Sorry, I’m not helping am I?”
I muster up a small smile and aim it at him.
“It’s starting!” One of the Upper girls squeals while someone else hits the volume button on the remote.
TV’s throughout the school, all showing the same report, echo against the walls until it feels as though we are sitting inside the boring yet official looking office space.
Of course, they wouldn’t let the interview be held here.
A reporter, barely contained curiosity lighting his brown eyes, looks out at us.
The word LIVE! is highlighted at the bottom of the screen beside the running bulletin repeating the same sentence.
A live chat with the head of Saint Bartholomew’s School for Gifted Pupils. We learn exactly what is behind the gate.
There’s quiet whispering of excitement as we realise we may finally see The Head but it doesn’t last long as the suited man finally stops introducing himself and the camera switches so we see his profile as he turns to face The Head.
“So what exactly is the purpose of Saint Bartholomew’s?”
Now we are shown the back of his head and a blonde women who sits on a black sofa opposite him. She’s dressed in a dark pink blouse and a black pinstriped skirt and jacket. She’s amazingly beautiful but doesn’t look much older than thirty.
“Is that really The Head?” Someone whispers but no one answers.
No one knows.
“The purpose of my school is to educate young people to become future government employees in a safe and secure environment.” She answers with a polite smile and a soft, calming voice.
I begin to wonder what her Quirk is and whether it would work through a TV. Is she a Mind Controller like Roan? Is she subtly altering our perception of St. Bart’s?
“It’s her.” Leo says. “I recognise her voice.”
Of course he would, he’s been sent to her so many times he knows her better than all of us.
“And these young people are gifted?” The reporter asks, clearly steering the conversation.
“I believe all young people are gifted, some in just different ways.” She smiles again, a knowing twinkle in her eye.
“But your students, they are not gifted in the conventional sense are they?”
“No maybe not but I feel this just makes them more vulnerable. St Bart’s is a safe haven for them to develop and learn control while being offered a suitable and well paid job in the future where they will continue to be looked after.”
“She’s trying to calm the fear.” Roan mumbles. “They’re most worried about our Outsider Quirks so she’s emphasising the control we’re taught and how “looked after” we are.”
“But your students- Can you just verify exactly what kind of gifts we are looking at?”
She nods, trying to give the illusion of not hiding anything while giving a rather positive twist of the truth.
Like holding out empty hands while knowing you have a gun tucked in the waistband of your jeans.
“Of course. We have students that can manipulate the elements, students that are able to predict the future, intercept and manipulate electrical signals or move objects as well as other gifts. It would take me a long time to list every potential gift my students possess you must understand.” Another smile.
“I understand but what are viewers are most interested- or should I say frightened about, are the other gifts they possess. What can you tell us about the Outsiders?”
I clutch Leo’s hand, where all nervous leg jumping and nail biting had stopped at the start of the interview, Leo’s leg bounces erratically again as well as a few others in the room.
How much we are feared will impact everyone.
The Head laughs, the sounds makes me jump and she waves a hand dismissively.
“They are only labelled Outsider’s by my students. As I’m sure you remember from secondary school, groups tend to form depending on various things. In my school, these groups are generally formed depending on their abilities. Like attracts like. The Outsiders are just a smaller group that keep to themselves, that is all that is different about them compared to the others.”
She’s put a bit of a light spin on it but she’s told a loose version of the truth.
Then again I can’t imagine her telling them “they are labelled Outsiders as they are feared and avoided by the whole school” would go down well.
“But we have been told that they have rather different abilities. Mind control, physical control and not to mention incapacitating people with immense pain.”
The Head gives him a smile as if she’s just caught him pinching the last cookie.
“Well that’s a rather exaggerated version of the truth. They’re abilities are rather more limited then you are making it sound. These particular students can manipulate brain waves and the electrical signals in the muscles to either move the body or cause entirely imagined discomfort.”
“Discomfort”. That’s a rather optimistic way of putting it.
“She’s steering clear of you Roan.” I mumble to him. He makes a noise in agreement but otherwise stays focused on the TV.
“How can we know these students aren’t a risk to us?” The reporter asks, shifting slightly in his seat.
I notice The Head staring at him intently, her smile becoming more strained.
“All my students with potentially risky gifts are given very in-depth psych assessments and we keep track of their abilities with monthly tests.”
I repress a shudder, the psych assessment had been “in-depth” alright. I’d been sobbing after the first five minutes. Even so, I’d been deemed sane.
The monthly tests however… these involved brain scans, physical assessments, and, for me, zapping people at various strengths while my vitals (and theirs) were monitored as well as numerous questions.
This news is nothing majorly distressing or revealing though, leading me to wonder just what it is that she knows that we don’t causing her to look slightly worried.
“What about when they are outside of the school?”
Her smile vanishes and she looks vaguely annoyed.
“Of course, I cannot be expected to keep track of all my students when they are outside of the school grounds but I can assure you, they all behave exceptionally which is more than can be said of most teenagers.”
“But what about before these young, gifted people are eligible for your school? What is done about them?”
“Obviously they are watched over but as a Headmistress of a school I don’t feel it is fair to pin the blame-”
“But you are with the government are you not?” He’s getting more excited now, pleased to have potentially hit a nerve.
“Then what is the government doing about the safety of those around children with gifts who are not in your school?”
Whatever it is she’s getting nervous about, it’s getting closer, her eyes take in something off camera.
“We are continuously keeping tabs on the whole country for any signs of a gifted-”
“But most of the time, you are only able to identify a gifted individual after something has happened to make them more noticeable correct?”
Roan gasps, a slight intake of breath.
“Unfortunately this is largely due to the fear these individuals feel of being different so they don’t seek help.” The Head answers, trying to redirect the conversation.
“What?” I ask Roan.
“Think about it. How did the Elemental’s find out they could light fires? Create floods? Forests? Open up cracks in the Earth? How did you find out you could zap people?”
A sinking feeling pulls the blood out of my face.
“Well we have people here with us back in the studio who can tell us exactly what the Outsiders are potentially capable of.”
My lip starts bleeding again.
Roan’s family are dead, the only person who knows about Leo is his nanny, his surrogate mother someone who no doubt loves him back.
That only leaves-
“We’re now switching back to the studio with Joshua and one young man who was rushed to hospital after a run in with an Outsider. William Jones.”
A familiar pale face fills the screen, black eyes, dark curly hair…
He smiles, the same sad clown smile.
“Please, call me Billy.”